First Impressions – COLLIDER #1 (aka FBP: FEDERAL BUREAU OF PHYSICS)

Collider 1

“What is the nature of your emergency? Fire, ambulance, police…or physics?”

Such is the world of COLLIDER #1, where the immutable laws of the universe turn out to be far less immutable than people thought. It’s up to the Federal Bureau of Physics to repair the damages to the fabric of the universe. But they have no idea just how much reality is changing, or what they and the rest of humanity will have to do to survive in a new world order.

Edit: And yes, I’m aware of the title change. More on that after the cut.

I don’t read very many Vertigo titles, mostly because of the two massive reboots/relaunches that occurred in the last two years in the two respective superhero universes. For those unaware, Vertigo is a DC Comics imprint that handles most or all of the non-superhero stuff. Or at least it did once it got over its awkward phase and decided it didn’t even want to be a part of the regular DC universe. These days Vertigo is known for books like The Unwritten, American Vampire, Fables, 100 Bullets, and eternally classic The Sandman. It was also known for stuff like Swamp Thing and Animal Man, up until the DCU reabsorbed them alongside some of the Wildstorm properties for the sake of the New 52.

So now we can add another series to the list: COLLIDER. Or at least we would, but I’ll get to that.

COLLIDER #1 presents us with a pretty high concept premise: the laws of physics are changing. Thankfully science caught up to the point where disruptions of ordinary constants can be fixed. And the ones who do the fixing – at least in the continental United States – are the Federal Bureau of Physics, or FBP.

We’re introduced to Agent Adam Hardy, a young employee of the FBP with a love for women and a history with the changes occurring in their world. His scientist father worked to document the shifting nature of the world, and presumably died doing so before Hardy was even born. The technology of the FBP allows them to clamp shut tears in the fabric of space-time, and Adam’s job is to go into the thick of it to “weld” the tear shut. But being wedged in the dividing line between the universe and the unknowable beyond is, as one can imagine, dangerous work.

In spite of how impressive the concept seems at first glance, the characters in the story approach the unraveling of what is with a sense of blasé acceptance. Physics going wonky started out as big a deal as it ought. But after several years and a solidifying of the emergency procedures to combat it, no one cares anymore. It’s business as usual; just one more worry to add to the mountain of worries humanity faces on a daily basis.

Naturally it takes no time for the otherwise business-like FBP agents to be reminded they aren’t in control. Because from every indication, the disruptions of universal constants are only going to get worse.

COLLIDER #1 establishes a number of subplots in addition to the most obvious one. Adam Hardy is joined on the job by two coworkers: the FBP veteran Agent Jay Kelly, last vestige of the fast and loose physics days; and Special Agent Cicero Deluca, a stick-in-the-mud Ivy League graduate with a mind for quantum mechanics and getting things done in an orderly fashion. One of them has personal problems that might make things harder in the future, and the other is certain that something even worse than they could possibly imagine is coming.

Can you say colliding with another dimension entirely?

And of course there’s aspects of everyday life creeping in. With the new frontier of science now under control (or appearing to be), Congress in the FBP universe is seriously considering whether or not to cut FBP funding and privatize the physics maintenance business. It’s clear what side the comic stands on the matter, but readers will have to see for themselves how this will develop. It is nice to have writers taking into account how real-world politics would be shaped by the fantastic or impossible, something a lot of series either refuse to do or don’t put nearly as much thought into as they should.

Simon Oliver does a pretty good job on writing, especially establishing distinct characters that are well-rounded enough to be likable. But more impressive is the stylized art of Robbi Rodriguez. This is especially apparent in the scenes of universal laws going haywire. It depicts normal matter coming face to face with unreal happenings, like rigid metal bending and warping, or light twisting into abstract patterns. Easily the biggest strength going for COLLIDER is the color scheme, which is used to stunning effect. Apparently the space beyond space is magenta. Filled with magenta death.

What? You try going out of the universe and tell me you’re all right.

And then of course there’s the point I’ve skirted around but is pretty important: COLLIDER is no longer called COLLIDER.

Information is spotty and kind of evasive, but according to an interview between the creative team at Vertigo and MTV Geek, another comic book already had the rights to use the name “Collider”, so this book needed a title change. No worries, happens all the time, and in fact the new name seems a lot more obvious in retrospect: FBP: FEDERAL BUREAU OF PHYSICS. Indeed, they decided, since the book needed a change, it might as well be named after the principle organization featured in the story.

Because let’s face it, COLLIDER is kind of an abstract title. It says very little about what the series is about other than it might involve high level particle physics. FEDERAL BUREAU OF PHYSICS on the other hand is far more striking and indicative of the theme. That for whatever reason, the world needs agents solving physics problems. That is interesting.

The change goes into effect both in the next issue, as well as in the first reprint of issue one. As such, this entire post is kind of really out-of-date. That’s what I get for buying the book a week late and then sitting on it for another week.

If nothing else, I’ll have an interesting conversation piece in my collection. “Yeah, I liked FBP, but I was there when it was first called ‘Collider’. I’m so old!” Nothing says collector’s item like an initial print run with an obsolete title.

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